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Former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rocky Bleier declares bankruptcy

January 3, 1997 GMT

PITTSBURGH (AP) _ Former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rocky Bleier has hocked his Super Bowl rings and filed for bankruptcy.

His former wife has little sympathy.

Aleta Whitaker said in a counter-suit that Bleier just wants to avoid paying her $837,948 from the sale of their suburban Pittsburgh home.

``Rocky made $650,000 as a motivational speaker in 1995 and his income is going up, not down,″ Whitaker’s attorney, Jeffrey Ward, said. ``Ninety percent of the debt he is trying to avoid is money he owes to Aleta, and much of the remainder is owed to his new in-laws.″

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Bleier, a star of four Super Bowls, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy Dec. 12, two days after selling his championship rings for $40,000 to help pay back federal taxes, according to the petition in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Pittsburgh.

Whitaker, of San Diego, asked the court to order Bleier to make the $10,000-a-month payments required in the couple’s settlement agreement.

Bleier, who played for the Steelers during the 1970s, denied he filed for bankruptcy to duck the payments to his ex-wife. He claimed his debts exceed his income by about $5,000 a month.

``I feel bad, as anyone does who has had to go through (bankruptcy),″ Bleier said. ``But I’m 50 years old and I deserve a life, and it’s not as if I’ve left her poor.″

The couple was married in 1975, separated in 1993 and divorced in October 1995.

Bleier’s bankruptcy petition said he has paid Whitaker $1.3 million in cash and property since they separated, including a $400,000 retirement account and 12 1/2 tons of personal belongings she took to California. The belongings included eight fur coats valued at $38,750, diamonds worth $36,000, a 1988 Porsche and a 1985 Ferrari.

Bleier said he could not make the payments specified in the divorce settlement because the couple’s house in Fox Chapel, an affluent Pittsburgh suburb, did not sell for the expected price.

Under the settlement, Whitaker was to receive the net proceeds of the home’s sale, with Bleier making up the difference if it sold for less than $1.5 million through $10,000-a-month payments at 6 percent interest.

The home sold in September for $840,000, but netted only $200,000 after the mortgage was paid. Whitaker got that amount, but Bleier said he could not afford 14 years of $10,000-a-month payments to make up the difference.

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Last month, Whitaker offered to accept $600,000 and spread out the payments, her lawyer said. Bleier countered with an offer of $250,000, which Whitaker considered an insult, Ward said.

``This is my first experience going through something like this,″ Bleier said. ``It is embarrassing and, frankly, I would prefer that the public not know about it.″

Bleier makes motivational speeches, earning about $5,000 a talk.